Monday, May 1, 2017

Esoterica XVIII: Marvel Mania!

Been digging into the Marvel Comics vaults lately, here are some of the gems I've dug up.

Finally got around to reading this Marvel take on J.R.R. Tolkien style fantasy and the results are... Well, sort of lame. Things get off to a good start in the comic pictured above as a young elf named Tyndall is tossed out of his village by dwarfs who see him as a bringer of evil (they all live on a planet called Weirdworld where things are, well you can guess from the name of the place) to stop a dark force only for him to discover a female elf he falls in love with and together with another dwarf named Mud-Butt (because he tends to get knocked on his ass into the mud a lot), they go off on a series of adventures trying to stave off various evil wizards and the like.

After the good start, there are three multi-issue stories of varying quality (one of which was delayed from its original 1979 writing to 1986, long after the other stories had been published) with somewhat repetitious stories (wizards are like cockroaches in this damn series which is to be expected but still) and less than enthralling characters as Tyndall comes off like Luke Skywalker if he was just naive and whiny with no charm (there is a fine line between charmingly naive and just really stupid) and Velanna, the female elf is only interesting in the last arc where she is controlled by the bad guy while Mud-Butt is probably the best, mainly because I could see Sean Connery voicing him if it was an animated film.

Apart from that, the art is quite nice with a blend of standard comics art to begin with, leading to some very nice painted art for the later stories that only occasionally looks like the painting on the back of that skeevy looking van you pass on the highway every now and then and end up guessing with your friends as to whether or not the driver had just killed his latest victim or was taking said victim back to his home to kill there.

Not a great series but I am glad I read it, if for nothing else other than that van joke.

 In the 70's, the Comics code was scaled back to the degree where horror comics could roar back to life. Marvel took up the cause with a slew of titles including this short-lived version of the classic Frankenstein Monster. Running 18 issues (plus several appearances in some of their black and white comics along with other monsters), this gives us an intermittently fun and often repetitious saga as the creature goes from town to town in search of his creator and being chased by the standard angry mob of torch wielding villagers.

There are some inspired gems though as Frankie goes up against Dracula himself followed by a confrontation with the last living Frankenstein and his huge, grotesque Russian henchman Ivan. A shift forward to modern times sort of works but apart from the requisite appearance in Marvel Team-Up with Spider-Man, the big guy sort of just peters out.

 After a bit of a wait, the rest of John Byrne's run on The Sensational She-Hulk has finally been released in trade paperback. I really dig the blend of humor and action in this book as it's a nice breath of fresh air for the period (the book ran from 1989 to 1994) which tended to be mired in darkness and grit just for the sake of it.

 
Pictured above is one of the lesser Spider-Man villains. The White Rabbit is a very rich, very insane woman who popped up every now and then to provide a modest threat (and I am being quite generous here), even teaming up with another incompetent Spidey villain known as The Walrus. Sadly, none of those issues have been collected in a trade paperback format. God only knows where it would fit, maybe a 'Most Hilarious Villains of Marvel' set. Actually, I'd pay a reasonable MSRP to see that!

Lastly, we have one of my true "holy grails" when it comes to comics. I love horror comics and Steve Gerber's work on Man-Thing is a great blend of 70's Marvel social awareness with good old fashioned EC horror. We get our muck-encrusted hero; tons of evil folks being burnt alive (fear causes the monster immense pain which can only be soothed by burning the cause of said pain to death), one story that is pure 70's (in that most of the characters are repulsively unlikable and almost everybody dies) and there is also a deranged super villain assassin called The Foolkiller who is one of the more berserk and crazy creations Steve Gerber ever made. And that's counting Howard the Duck!

I recommend you try and seek out all the titles I mentioned in this post. They might not wow you, but you won;t be bored.

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About Me

I've been a huge fan of action, horror and comedy for as long as I can remember.